Call Before You Dig: It’s The Law

As warmer weather is settling in for the season, many of us start working on projects that involve digging on our properties. The tree you are planting, fence posts you are digging or irrigation system you are installing are all projects for which you would likely need to request an underground locate.

Even projects that don’t seem very big must have underground utilities located if you are going to dig. It is the law. There could be more than just dirt you are digging into in your project area, so it is important to call for underground locates before you begin digging. Laws vary by state, but if you are digging a foot or more in depth, it is necessary to request an underground locate through the 811 Call Before You Dig hotline.

Utilities buried in the ground in our region include phone, fiber, cable TV, water, sewer, natural gas and electric. Beyond the devastating risks of death or injury, consider you could be held liable for repair costs if you damage a utility’s underground facilities, and there likely would be an inconvenience to you if the utility is serving your home.

If you have a contractor doing work for you, the contractor is responsible for requesting the locate. Utilities do not locate private or secondary lines on your property; those are your responsibility to locate.

NLI has approximately 44% of its power lines underground, and has responsibilities for locating its power lines for others. When a homeowner or contractor requests a locate, NLI uses USIC—a locating contractor—to locate NLI’s facilities in the area of planned excavation. Using a contractor is more cost-effective than having NLI linemen do locates. NLI linemen are equipped and do perform NLI cable locates under emergency situations.

Last year, USIC responded to 4,622 locate requests for NLI. The 811 locate coordinator, USIC and NLI maintain electronic maps of the utilities, so when a request comes in to the 811 hotline it is easy to tell what utility providers are in a specific area and need to be asked to perform a locate.

NLI follows the same laws homeowners must follow regarding 811. When NLI line crews have excavation work in the field— such as replacing a pole or installing underground cable— NLI also must call in a locate request before crews can dig.

There are provisions in the law for emergency locates. Those should only be used when a locate is needed to restore power, fix gas or water leaks, or truly is some type of emergency that needs to be repaired.

Remember: Before you dig, call 811 for a locate. It’s easy, free and the law.

When calling in, mark the area where you plan to dig with white paint or flagging.

Call 811 at least two full business days before you plan to dig. The 811 call center will contact all the utilities known to be in the area to come and locate their facilities. If you plan to install a new fence on Saturday morning, you must call in your locate by Wednesday.

Do not dig until all known facilities are marked. Please verify all companies identified on your locate request have responded. Please remember that more than one electric or communication company may exist within your digging area. Locaters will respond using color coded paint or flagging (see color key below). Marks should indicate the responding company. NLI marks will be identified with a painted “NLI” or flagging with our logo.

Hand dig within close vicinity of located facilities so as to not damage them.

Maintaining the marked location of utilities during your digging is your responsibility.

Underground locate marks are good for 21 days in Idaho and 30 days in Montana after the first request. Once this time has passed, you will need to submit a new locate request.

8 colored boxes. Proposed excavation. Survey marks. Electric. Gas, oil or fuel. Cable or phone. Potable water. Reclaimed water. Sewer.